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What does it take to deal with abandoned house fires?

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Crews from the Wichita Fire Department (WFD) tackled another blaze in an abandoned home early Friday morning on South Broadway. It wasn’t their first time there.

“This is our third fire we’ve had since October,” said Jose Ocadiz, WFD battalion chief.

The abandoned house has turned into a safety hazard.

“Our concerns are, you know, the structural stability of it and other dangers on the outside of the building itself,” he said.

Ocadiz says it appears fires in abandoned buildings are becoming more common. However, there isn’t much the firefighters can do. Their main concern is to make sure no one gets hurt.

The South Broadway home was boarded up by the city of Wichita in September. It was added to their scrap list after it caught fire a second time in January.

After Friday’s fire, the City expedited the process and had it torn down later that afternoon.

  • Demolition of empty house (photo KSN)
  • Demolition of empty house (photo KSN)
  • Demolition of empty house (photo KSN)
  • Demolition of empty house (photo KSN)

WFD believes the fire started from someone trying to keep warm.

Wichita City Councilman Mike Hoheisel says these abandoned houses are a cause for concern.

“We watch tramps break into houses, we also watch children break into houses and play, it’s very dangerous,” Hoheisel said. “It’s always in the back of my head that someone could end up getting seriously injured.”

Hoheisel says it’s a difficult issue to grapple with a fine line between property rights and public safety.

“This is something we need to be aware of. We don’t want to take over the houses of the people around them. We don’t want to condemn them. We don’t want to bring them down, but it’s emerging more and more nowadays that that’s what’s needed to preserve public safety,” she said.

Hoheisel says there’s a group working to buy abandoned buildings along the South Broadway corridor — like the one demolished on Friday — and keep them.

The City of Wichita is working to board up abandoned structures, but needs your help flagging any buildings that may be a problem.

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